At least 116 people were killed and many more injured in a stampede that occurred Tuesday evening during a religious gathering in the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh. A large crowd had gathered in a village in Hathras district for a sermon by a popular preacher Narayan Saakar Hari aka ‘Bhole Baba’.

Relatives mourn next to the bodies of their relatives outside the Sikandrarao hospital in Hathras district about 350 kilometres southwest of Lucknow, India, Tuesday, July 2, 2024.(AP)

“The attendees were exiting the venue when a dust storm blinded their vision, leading to a melee and the subsequent tragic incident,” said Chaitra V., divisional commissioner of Aligarh city in Uttar Pradesh state, told AFP.

An eyewitness, however, said the rush among Bhole Baba’s followers for collecting “raj” (dust) over which the preacher’s vehicle had passed while leaving the venue was the reason for the stampede.

The chaos led to many being crushed or trampled, with some falling into a roadside drain. Lines of ambulances rushed the injured to hospitals. Outside a mortuary in the town of Etah, where many of the dead were taken, wailing women and crying men gathered, seeking news of their relatives.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath expressed his condolences and directed district officials to ensure the injured receive prompt medical attention and to expedite relief efforts at the site.

Did suffocation lead to Hathras stampede? What police, eyewitnesses say

Deadly incidents at religious gatherings are unfortunately common in India, often due to poor crowd management and safety lapses. In 2016, 112 people were killed after a banned fireworks display caused a massive explosion at a temple in Kerala. In 2013, a stampede at a bridge near a temple in Madhya Pradesh resulted in 115 deaths. In 2008, 224 pilgrims were killed and over 400 injured in a stampede at a hilltop temple in Jodhpur.

Here is a list of major stampedes in India over the years, most of them at religious festivals or gatherings:

January 2005: Over 340 devotees were trampled to death and hundreds injured during an annual pilgrimage at Mandhardevi temple in Maharashtra’s Satara district. The stampede was caused by slippery steps leading up to the temple.

August 2008: About 145 Hindu pilgrims died after rumours of a landslide triggered a stampede at the mountaintop Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh.

September 2008: A total of 224 people were trampled to death at the Chamunda Devi temple in Rajasthan during the Navratri festival. The stampede was triggered by rumours of a bomb going off at the temple in Jodhpur city.

March 2010: At least 63 people, more than half of them children, were killed in a stampede triggered by a massive rush for free food and clothes from a self-styled godman at a Hindu temple in Uttar Pradesh.

January 2011: At least 104 Sabarimala devotees were killed and over 40 were injured in a stampede when a jeep crashed into homebound pilgrims at Pulmedu in Kerala’s Idukki district.

November 2011: At least 20 people were killed in a stampede in Haridwar at Har-ki-Pauri ghat on the banks of the Ganga river.

February 2013: At least 36 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a stampede on the busiest day of the Kumbh Mela, a massive gathering in Uttar Pradesh where more than 100 million pilgrims gather over two months.

November 2013: Around 115 people were killed and more than a hundred injured after a stampede at the Ratangarh temple in Madhya Pradesh during the Navratri celebrations.

January 2022: At least 12 people died and more were injured in a stampede at the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir after a huge crowd of devotees tried to enter the narrow shrine.

With inputs from Bureau and agencies